Waiting for Some Answers About the Alleged Cause of Air Traffic Delays

The airlines have been campaigning for NextGen satellite GPS navigation technology and privatizing air traffic control. The drumbeat continues. We keep hearing that “antiquated” air traffic control — as well as little old homely LaGuardia Airport — are the source of delays that back up our entire country’s air traffic system. We’ve never seen any proof, only a lot of allegations. If they make those claims over and over again, people start to believe them.

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, wrote an oped article for Crain’s calling for Congress to privatize our air traffic control system. You can read it here. He called out our New York Congressional delegation in particular.


Three former mayors of towns in New York State wrote an answer to the JetBlue oped article. Here it is:


It’s true that all these airline opeds and speeches raise more questions than they answer. Queens Quiet Skies is dubious about the claims of the airline industry. I wrote the following letter to Sharyn Pinkerton, a lobbyist for Airlines For America, on August 20th. Now I’m going to send a copy to Robin Hayes. The members of QQS are waiting for answers..

Dear Ms. Pinkerton:

In March, 2016, the Times Ledger newspapers published a letter in which you discussed flight delays at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. Among other claims, you stated:

our reliance on WWII-era radar technology … is responsible for the three major New York area airports perennial ranking among the top five most delayed airports in the nation … Air traffic control delays have become about 15 percent longer at 13 out of 20 of America’s largest hubs despite declining traffic … with JFK having the longest increase at 49 percent. Twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour. Today the same flight takes 90 minutes, as airlines have to account for ATC delays.

We have tried without success to substantiate your claims. Therefore, I am asking the following questions on behalf of the members of Queens Quiet Skies:

1. On which data or facts have you based the claim that “our reliance on radar technology” is responsible for flight delays at the three major New York area airports, as well as at “13 out of 20 of America’s largest hubs despite declining traffic” ?

2. Are the air traffic control systems in use at the New York metro area airports actually “WW-II era technology”; i.e., the same navigation technology used from 1941 through 1945? Are the air traffic control systems in use at the 20 largest U.S. hubs actually WW-II era radar technology? If not, would you please explain why you made that assertion?

3. Please substantiate the alleged link between the air traffic control technology used at U.S. airports and your claim of declining aviation traffic at 13 out of 20 of America’s largest hubs?

4. Please explain why you linked your claim about air traffic control delays with the alleged decline in aviation traffic.

5. Which data or other facts substantiate your assertion that a flight from LGA to National
Airport takes 90 minutes because airlines have to account for ATC delays? Does it take longer to fly that route now than it did 20 years ago? Are all or only some delays on that route caused by air traffic control?

6. Of the alleged delays on the LGA to DCA route, how many flight delays (as a percentage) were caused at LGA?

7. In which year was GPS navigation first used in aviation in the United States? Can you demonstrate a correlation between the use of GPS navigation systems and improved on-time performance?

Finally, what is Airlines For America’s position on including the health and safety of communities located near airports as priority criteria when GPS navigation routes are designed? Is it the position of Airlines For America that NextGen flight procedures should be categorically excluded from NEPA regulation?
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.


Janet McEneaney

2 comments on “Waiting for Some Answers About the Alleged Cause of Air Traffic Delays
  1. Patricia Ziegler says:

    What was the answer from Sharyn Pinkerton? Crickets?

  2. Andy Cheung says:

    I am living in the 190th street 75th avenue, Fresh Meadows, Queens, there are aircrafts flying over my house every 30 seconds. From 6:00am until 11:00pm everyday sometimes they flying past midnight. I had made many complaints to my congresswoman Ms Grace Meng and port authority. It seems to me they have not done anything to reduce the aircraft noise at all. I hope this organization can reduce the aircraft noise in my area.

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